William R. Bennett Jr., former Yale professor, master of Silliman College and groundbreaking physicist, died June 29 of esophageal cancer at his home in Haverford, Pennsylvania. He was 78.
Bennett was born January 30, 1930 in Jersey City, New Jersey to physicist William Bennett and Viola Schreiber.
Bennett, the C. Baldwin Sawyer Professor Emeritus of Engineering and Applied Science and Physics, may be best known for his pioneering role in the invention of the first gas laser in 1960 at Bell Laboratories. Although this first laser used helium and neon, Bennett’s research on spectroscopy and collisions of the second kind continued with other noble gases such as argon, krypton and xenon.